High levels of AID cause strand bias of mutations at A versus T in Burkitt's lymphoma cells

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Ig gene somatic hypermutation in the germinal center (GC) B cells occurs at C and G at roughly the same frequency. In contrast, there is a 2-fold increase of mutations at A relative to T on the non-transcribed strand of the V genes but it is unclear what triggers such strand bias. Using an efficient mutagenesis system that recapitulates characteristic features of Ig gene hypermutation in the GC B cells, we found that low levels of AID induced similar frequency of mutations at A and T. However, high levels of AID specifically increased mutations at A, but not T, leading to strand bias. These results explain why strand bias of A:T mutations is observed only in the highly mutated V genes but not in the less mutated switch region or the BCL-6 gene. High levels of AID also increased the proportion of transversions at G relative to transversions at C. Our results identify a clue to the strand bias of A:T mutations and provide an in vitro model to elucidate this unsolved mystery in the hypermutation field.

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